A Take on Education: Teach Problem Understanding, Not Problem Solving

Education as it is designed today kills passion. It has happened to me countless times that I've taken up a university course on a subject I found fascinating, only to come out of the course thinking; "Hm, that subject is in fact quite boring and mundane." Why is this? Partly because courses tend to give you ways of solving problems you're not sure exist. A lot of time is spent teaching you how to overcome and deal with problems, as well as why that particular method works. But very little time is spent convincing you that the problems you are learning to solve are actually relevant in real life. In other words, we are taught to solve problems that have no relevance to us until five years later when we encounter them in real (working) life. 

"Ah," you say. "So now (in real working life) we can finally use the problem solving methods we learned five years ago. All is good." Not quite. When you did your course five years ago you weren't paying attention because the problem wasn't relevant to you then! You won't remember anything. And if you do, you spent much more time drilling the information into your head than you should have needed to. And... if you were doing a technical course the information will be outdated to the point of irrelevance after five years anyway. 

The solution? Focus education on getting students to understand and experience practical PROBLEMS... NOT solutions. Once they get to hit those metaphorical walls for themselves, you can teach them the solution methods as more of an afterthought. If students are REALLY taught to understand and feel the problems that will face them later in life, they will hunger for solutions to the point of looking up problem solving methods themselves. Beyond that, they might actually think up better solutions than the ones they would have been taught! As a teacher that's a scary thought, but also a wonderful one.